What is the longest word? If you look this up on Google, you will be presented with a confusing mass of multi syllabled nonsense. At school I liked antidisestablishmentarianism. I still love that train station in Anglesey: Llanfairpwllgogerychwyndrobwlllantysiliogogogoch. (Phew, that took ages.) Well I just love Anglesey really. There is also a Maori word:
But let’s not go into that. The longest word is smiles. Why? Because there is a mile between the first and last letter. If you think beyond the pun, smiles go a long way for many reasons.
A lot of people smile at me. It’s usually when I’m tramping the usual mile up the road to the supermarket. Passers-by smile and people in the supermarket smile. It cheers me up. It makes the whole experience of setting up the travel wheelchair, manipulating it by means of my walking stick and joystick to put it into a position of convenience, hence reducing any walking distance, getting into my travel chair and subsequently manoeuvring my indoor chair for the same reason, doing the start stop procedure of getting out of the front door, rolling down to the Tramper, transferring onto the Tramper and storing the joystick of the chair in the front box, then realising I’d forgotten my extra special Waitrose bag for life and having to re-open the front door, shuffle the eternity of three meters to get the bag, finally get back onto the Tramper and start my journey.
You’d think I’d remember the bag in the first place. Brain fog be damned. When doing such a routine, my main concern is not falling over.
I fell over on Saturday morning. I had placed a nice big fat juicy cup of tea onto the side-table and attempted to sit down on the sofa. My left knee collapsed with its usual spontaneity. The para-medics eventually arrived, I had a numb bum but they smiled. Then they hoiked me back into the chair and we had a conversation about the Rock Choir. One of them made me another cup of tea as my original was sitting all sad, out of reach, feeling the onset of cold and neglect. (Yes, I actually feel sorry for cups on tea.)
On my trips to the supermarket I feel a similar sort of warmth. At the checkout, I receive VIP treatment as someone will always pack my much forgotten bag and load it onto the Tramper for me. But why do people smile? Do they admire me for my super-human courage? Are they desperate for someone like me to feel some sense of inclusion in the rat-race that is the weekly shop? Are they smiles of compassion or sympathy? (No they are not. I know those sort of smiles.)
I think a lot of people have real experience with others who might feel disadvantaged. Almost everyone I meet will know or be related to someone who has become burdened by some form of illness; a stroke, Parkinson’s or some nasty form of cancer. I know a lot of people who have experience of dementia; that day I sat with my mum at the doctor’s and he asked her who I was. She replied:
“I know his name begins with S.”
Dementia is the nastiest of all. It robs you of everything.
So I am glad to receive the smile of a stranger. They are not patronising, they are encouraging. They are giving me support because they understand how hard it can be if you are deprived of the ability to walk. And it is not just in my lovely little town on the hill. I have found this to be a national thing. I know that when I go out it will be a positive experience.
When I used to cycle everywhere in the early eighties, I always sang “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”. I received many strange looks for belting out this rather cheesy Sinatra standard. But now I refrain from that-unless it’s raining:
As I mosey on, saturated by the heaven’s offerings, I burst into the very same refrain. It brings more than smiles. And it still gives me a smile when I get home and have to pile into the shower and stick my clothes into the washing machine; plus doing the going out routine in reverse and putting the shopping away. The smiles linger.
Thank-you for reading.